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Austin health leaders say area could drop from Stage 5 to Stage 4 by mid-February

If the moving average of hospitalizations drops to below 60 per day, city leaders could declare Stage 4.

AUSTIN, Texas — If hospital admissions keep moving in a downward trend, Austin health officials said in their joint meeting with city council and Travis County commissioners that the area could drop to Stage 4 COVID-19 guidelines by mid-February. The Austin-Travis County area is currently in Stage 5 of the city's risk-based coronavirus guidelines.

While in Stage 5, public health leaders recommend that residents only gather with people they live with. In Stage 4, leaders ask that low-risk people avoid groups of more than 10 people.

It is important to note that those rules are technically non-binding.

RELATED: COVID-19 vaccine: Travis County call center to assist elderly patients

Austin Public Health's Interim Authority Dr. Mark Escott said moving to Stage 4 can only happen if people keep wearing masks and stay away from groups.

"So if we continue those protective actions ... we continue to stay now where we can we continue to limit our interactions with other folks. It will help to drop this quicker and put us in a better situation to drop down to Stage 4," Escott said.

Local hospitals are seeing an average of 66 new hospitalizations per day. If that moving average drops below 60, then leaders could declare Stage 4, but that metric does not automatically enter the area into Stage 4. The 60 hospitalizations per day threshold is simply a benchmark the City has set for discussing moving from Stage 5 to Stage 4. 

What's the difference between Stage 5 and Stage 4

Stage 5:

Everyone is advised to stay home and only leave for essential trips. Businesses are encouraged to do contactless options only. 

Stage 4: 

High-risk people are recommended to avoid gatherings of more than two people and avoid non-essential travel, dining and shopping. Low-risk people are recommended to keep social gatherings to groups of less than 10 and also avoid non-essential travel. 

Businesses are encouraged to operate at 25% to 50% capacity.

WATCH: Austin health leaders say area could drop from Stage 5 to Stage 4 by mid-February

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